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Five-judge SC bench to hear pleas challenging abrogation of Article 370 after summer vacation

Several petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 were referred to a Constitution Bench headed by Justice N V Ramana in 2019 by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

Several petitions challenging the Centre's decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 were referred to a Constitution Bench headed by Justice N V Ramana in 2019 by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider listing after summer vacation the pleas challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 which had given special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Hima Kohli took note of the submissions of senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for one of the petitioners, that the plea needed an urgent hearing in view of the delimitation exercise being carried out in the state.

“This is the Article 370 matter. The delimitation is also going on,” the senior lawyer, appearing for interveners Radha Kumar (academic and author) and Kapil Kak (retired officer of the Indian Air Force), said.

“Let me see,” the CJI said, adding, “This is a five-judge matter. I will have to reconstitute the bench.” The apex court agreed to re-constitute a five-judge bench hear pleas after summer vacation.

Several petitions challenging the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which splits J-K into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — were referred to a Constitution Bench headed by Justice N V Ramana in 2019 by the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi. By abrogating Article 370, the Central government had revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Besides Justice Ramana, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, R Subhash Reddy (since retired), B R Gavai, and Surya Kant were part of the bench which, on March 2, 2020, had declined to refer to a larger seven-judge bench the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.

NGO, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, and an intervenor had sought referring of the matter to a larger bench on the ground that two judgements of the apex court — Prem Nath Kaul versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1959 and Sampat Prakash versus Jammu and Kashmir in 1970 — which dealt with the issue of Article 370 were conflicted each other and therefore, the current bench of five judges could not hear the issue.

Disagreeing with the petitioners, the bench had said it was of the opinion that “there is no conflict between the judgements”. The five-judge bench, which would hear the pleas, will have to be reconstituted as Justice Reddy has retired in January this year.

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